Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey everyone! I am writing to you all today from my new area in..... TUCSON! Yep, I'm still here. But I did get transferred to south Tucson. I'm now in the Saguaro branch with Elder Strong. P-days got switched to Tuesdays on transfer week, so now we get calls on Sunday nights, work Mondays, and get transferred on Tuesdays. These last few days have been pretty hectic to say the least. I'm looking forward to serving in this new area. It's supposed to be a relatively tough area to work in but it's filled with people who speak Spanish so I'm excited. That's one benefit to having stayed in Tucson my entire mission. Even though I'm not right on the border, there have still been a relatively good amount of Hispanics in all of my areas so far. I know some Spanish missionaries that have gotten stuck in English areas for nearly their whole missions.

Anyway, the Saguaro branch is fairly new and small. It was created right before I got to the mission field out of the Valencia branch and we average 60-70 people at church every week. That means there's a lot of good work ahead of me though! Elder Strong is from Taylorsville and has been out for three transfers. He seems pretty cool so far so we should do well. Supposedly, there is a family of four that's about ready to be baptized here pretty quick so that's exciting.

It was tough to say goodbye to everyone in the Sonora branch. I grew really close to a lot of the members and recent converts. I'll probably be seeing a lot of them again though because we're all still close. The missionary that's taking my place is named Elder Anderson and I've heard really good things about him.

Last Thursday we had the opportunity to go to the temple. It was an incredible experience! The Gila Valley Temple is really small but very beautiful. It was so awesome to take a little road trip over there and be with President and Sister Walker in the temple. We get to go every three months and I already can't wait to go again.

Well, I'll probably have more info about my new area/companion/people to teach to talk about next week. Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello everybody! This week has been a little bit difficult but we're all learning and growing from it. We've been having a really tough time getting people to keep their committments, especially coming to church (nobody came yesterday). We've been trying to brainstorm some good ideas and I think I finally came up with one that we're excited to try. We give people for things that they need to do in order to gain a testimony and progress towards baptism. They are: read from the Book of Mormon, pray to know that it's true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, attend church, and meet with us regularly (on a daily basis if possible). It's interesting to watch because if anybody does all four of these things together and consistently, they gain a testimony really quickly. If they miss one then their progress is delayed.
In Alma 32 there is an analogy about growing our testimonies. It all starts with a seed. I figure if they've decided to investigate the church, they've already planted that seed in their hearts. If the seed doesn't grow, it's not because the seed isn't good like Alma said. We have to nourish it or else it won't grow. For example, give it water every day, give it sunlight, give it good soil, and fertilize it once in awhile. It's the same concept with our testimonies of the gospel. The idea I got is to buy a seed of some kind and plant it with the people we are teaching. Then they have to do certain things throughout the day to nourish their testimonies before they can nourish the real seed. For example:
watering the seed=reading from the Book of Mormon
putting it in the sunlight=saying their prayers
good soil=meeting with us
fertilizer (once a week)=coming to church (once a week)
This way they'll be able to see that if their testimony didn't grow it's because they didn't nourish it enough (the real plant will likely die too). We haven't put this to the test yet but I think it will yield some good results and help people see the importance of doing these things daily! I think we'll probably try it out this week.
Jessica, or Yessica, finally got confirmed yesterday which was good news! The other people that we are teaching seem to be making slow progress but they're not giving it enough effort quite yet. Hopefully we can get that to change with this new idea that we got. We saw a really cool miracle with Carlos this week. On Friday night after he said the closing prayer, he stayed thinking for a minute. Then he looked up and told us that he hadn't smoked or had a drink since he met us! We haven't even talked to him about the word of wisdom yet, and the guy that referred him to us told us that he has been a super heavy drinker for years! It was really awesome. Unfortunately he couldn't come to church yesterday because his Jehovah's Witness friend heard that we had been seeing him and made sure to come by and pick him up to go to their church. He's got his doubts still but he can't deny the miracle that happened.
Well, we had a zone conference on Friday and we found out some more details about all of the changes that the mission is undergoing. We have four full-day leadership meetings within these next two weeks, which means my greeny will be on an exchange with the other greeny in our district for four days trying to speak Spanish! That should be an adventure for them. I remember how that was for me. I'm sure they'll do a good job though.
Well, that's all I've got for this week. I hope you're all doing well! Pray that this law here gets overturned.
Elder Olsen

Monday, May 24, 2010

more transfer rumors...

Hey everyone! It's transfer week once again and we should be getting a call tonight. In my interview with President Walker last Wednesday, he basically told me that I would be staying in my area another transfer but that I would be getting a new companion. That pretty much dashed my hopes of ending up in El Paso (sorry Justin), but i trust I'll be where the Lord wants me to be. The rumor that is floating around now is that I'll be training so we'll see what happens. This is a huge transfer for the mission. Not only are we losing a third of the missionaries (three zones) to a different mission, but 17 missionaries are going home. They all happen to be really good ones too, and make up a good portion of the leadership in this mission. To go along with that, we should have 18 new missionaries coming out. I can't remember if they're coming out this transfer or the next, but the mission is about to get very young and very different. It should be an exciting time though.

So some other big news is that the Gila Valley Temple was dedicated yesterday! We got to watch the cultural celebration for it on Saturday night and then the three dedicatory sessions were on Sunday. We went to two of them, one in English and one in Spanish. It was an awesome experience! There were several awesome prophecies fulfilled by the building and dedication of that temple. The mission is already seeing a lot of miracles from it and I'm sure they're just beginning. Unfortunately, the dedication caused some problems for some of the people we're teaching. They didn't have recommends so obviously they couldn't go. The normal church services were cancelled so they were left with nothing. We tried to set up a small gospel principles class in the night but nobody from any of the three companionships in the branch came. It's alright though because in the end we're going to gain a lot more than we lost.
So how cool is that new conference issue of the Ensign? It's awesome with all those color pictures to go along with some incredible talks! I've only had it for a few days and I've already read a good portion of it. If you haven't picked it up yet, DO IT!

I almost forgot some other big news. We moved again this week. I've had pretty bad luck with apartments so far on my mission. Apart from moving when i get transferred to a new area, I've had to move three times in the middle of transfers, the reason being that the apartments were so trashed. We undertook the task of the century on Friday and we're still not done. The apartment I had been living in has housed missionaries for A LONG time. To give you some idea, we found Ensigns in our apartment that date back to 1993. There were large holes in the walls, there were tears and stains in the carpet, the hot water didn't work in the sinks, the dishwasher was broken, the toilet didn't work right, and the cupboards were FULL of expired food. I started cleaning the place when I first got there with Elder Farnsworth but you wouldn't be able to tell. I threw away about 6 large boxes of food that had been expired for at least a year or two, including a few things that expired in 1999! I can't even begin to describe how filthy it was. We basically filled up an entire dumpster with junk. We also found some interesting things, including a full set of golf clubs, a couple of large knives including a machete, and a lizard frozen in a tupperware container in the freezer. It definitely feels good to be in a clean apartment now where things work, even if it was a huge project.

As far as teaching goes, it was kind of slow this week but we've found a lot of good potential. Elba is still doing well and wants to be baptized. Hopefully I'll have more updates next week. Thanks for all of your support! I had a really cool quote to share but I left it at home so I'll share it next week.

Elder Olsen

p.s. I saw Pete Stevens riding his bike earlier in the week. I don't know if any of you remember that story but it brought back some funny memories. I also saw the Contreras family from my last area. We were out tracting in a trailer park and they pulled up by us out of the blue! I guess they used to live there and are still trying to sell their old trailer. It was awesome to visit with them again for a few minutes. I guess they're still about the same as when I left the area, but I know one day they'll be an awesome active family.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey everyone! This last week has been pretty good. We found some new solid people to teach. Things are starting to pick back up in this area little by little. One of the people that we found this week is named Elba. She is almost 70 years old and lives alone and she's a great lady. She already has a strong testimony of the Savior and does community service multiple times a week. We've had some awesome lessons with her so far! We also found out that her son is a member back in Utah. She came to church yesterday and had a great experience. Sometimes as missionaries you find someone new to teach. Sometimes you find a baptism. Elba has a baptismal date for June 12th and she's going to make it!

Also in church yesterday, Juan got the priesthood! It's such an awesome experience to see the people you teach progress after baptism. We also found some other really cool people this week. One guys name is Alberto and then we found an awesome family of 6! There's not a whole lot to say about them yet but I'll keep you posted. Unfortunately, we don't have church next week. I've never really seen that before but due to the dedication of the Gila Valley Temple, all church services are canceled on Sunday. We're going to the dedication instead, but the people we're teaching can't go so it's kind of tough.

I know these e-mails are getting more and more boring. This transfer has been a little bit tough so I've kind of lost a desire to write more. I'm going to start writing down the interesting things that happen throughout the week so you guys don't fall asleep reading this. I'll just leave you all with my testimony.

I've been thinking a lot this week about faith. Faith, faith, faith. It seems like we're always talking about it. It's a fairly easy subject to discuss on the surface but it goes a lot deeper. There is a reason faith is the first principle of the gospel. If we have faith, everything else falls into place. If not, then we can't progress until we develop faith. Almost everybody we talk to says they have faith, but faith is a lot more than just a belief. Faith is a principle of action! Like the scripture in James 2 says: "Faith without works is dead." If we truly have faith we're going to show it, not by what we say but by what we DO. A favorite example of faith that we share in the church is 1 Nephi 3:7, when Nephi was commanded to return to Jerusalem to get the plates. "I will go and do" is a great attitude to have, but i don't think that's really the part where Nephi showed his faith. He showed his faith when he WENT and DID. Faith begins with a desire. We have to want to believe or want to see a miracle. Then we show our faith by doing our part and TRUSTING that the Lord will do his. It's so hard to have actually have that trust sometimes because we're human and we want to see things with our eyes. I know that prayers of faith our answered, even though we can't see our Heavenly Father. I've seen it many times throughout my life and my mission. If we had the faith of a mustard seed, we could move mountains!

Elder Olsen

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hey everyone! This week has been pretty good. I got to talk to my family yesterday which was awesome! I don't have a whole lot to say again (sorry I know my e-mails are getting short and boring) but yesterday we had an incredible sacrament meeting! To start things off, Olga got confirmed finally! Then the two people that gave talks were Juan and Julia! They did so awesome and the spirit was incredibly strong! Juan's closing remark was "I don't just believe the church is true, I KNOW this is the the only true church of Jesus Christ!" He just about shouted it into the microphone! He also invited his family but didn't tell them he was going to speak until it got announced in sacrament meeting. It was very rewarding to see all these people that I've seen get baptized up there bearing their testimonies for everyone to hear.

The other big news from the week is that Juan and Olga are now DATING! They went on a date earlier this week and I guess they made it official, but SHHH, it's a secret so don't tell. Hopefully it turns out well for them! The branch also got to go to the Gila Valley Temple open house on Saturday. I must admit, I was pretty jealous that I didn't get to go but it sounds like it went pretty well. It will be dedicated on May 23rd! We are already seeing so many miracles in our mission because of it! Our mission president also told us in zone conference last week that once it is open we'll all be able to go once a transfer (every six weeks)! If I somehow end up in the other mission when it splits at the beginning of July, I'll at least get to go once before that. The Albuquerque Mission has a temple too so it's a win/win situation!

Well, sorry this is so short again. I forgot my camera too so the pictures will have to wait another week. Have a great week everyone! Thanks for all of your letters!

Elder Olsen

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hey everybody! This week has been a bit of a struggle but not too bad overall. Olga got baptized on Thursday which was awesome! She had a great experience and she's doing really well. I forgot my camera but I'll try to send pictures next week. She was just telling us last night about the incredible change that she's experienced in her life in such a short time. She just saw a friend the other day that she hadn't seen since she began talking to us but her friend noticed a huge change in her. She's so much more happy and satisfied with life. She has work and she has people around her who care. The gospel really does work miracles.

I really don't have much to say this week and I'm not in the mood to write a whole lot so sorry. Hopefully next week will be a little more eventful. I'm sure by now all of you have heard about the new Arizona immigration law. If it ends up going through it's going to be a BIG deal. There's hardly anyone in Tucson with papers and if they all get deported this place is going to die. The economy will go in the toilet and they'll all be sent back to Mexico where there is no work. Basically this law will permit police officers to pull you over if you have dark skin and ask for proof that you are a citizen. It's a little more complex than that but that's pretty much what it comes down to. It's really racist and going to cause all sorts of problems if it goes into effect. There are only a handful of people with papers in our branch. Even members of the branch presidency are planning to move. Several people have already left to go to other surrounding states. It's really going to hurt the work here and hurt the people. Hopefully there will be someway to resolve it.

I just noticed that that's kind of a depressing paragraph but that's what's happening right now. We're right in the middle of it. People are super scared that their families are going to be split up. The members of the church have a lot of faith that everything will be ok though. We've just got to pray a lot to get it resolved. Once again, sorry for a boring e-mail. I hope you're all doing well! I love the church and I know it's true. When things get tough it's just an opportunity to build our faith even more.

Elder Olsen

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey everyone! I don't have a whole lot to share this week. It's been kind of a rough week but it turned out pretty good. We had seven people come to church and there's a lot of potential in them.

We moved up Olga's baptismal date to this Thursday because we have stake conference this weekend! She had her interview yesterday and she is solid and ready to go. We tried to get her to have a member baptize her but she asked me to so I'm excited for that. It's really been neat to see that change come into her life. She's seeing a lot of blessings too. It's been amazing for me to see the past couple of months how quickly the gospel can change lives.

We have also started focusing a lot on the Valenzuela family (I think I mentioned them about a month ago maybe). They have been investigating the church for a really long time but it seems like a lot of the previous missionaries have just been waiting around for them to get baptized. We set up daily contact with them and we are reading from the Book of Mormon together every day. We decided to start it from the beginning and now they are getting really into it. Things are going really well with them and I'm excited!

I'm sorry I don't have a whole lot to share this week. Hopefully next week will be more interesting. I love you all so much! Have a great week!

Elder Olsen